Jean Wendland Porter

Disclaimer: I know I’m preaching to the choir. But it has to be said, so I’m saying it.

I keep hearing defenses against wearing a mask in public. I wear one to protect YOU. I work in a COVID-19 facility and may be carrying a virus unawares.

Some say “If I die, I die. I have rights.” The problem is, and what has become very apparent to those in long-term care, you don’t die. You get sick. You linger. You have life-long residual health issues that may include requiring oxygen, stroke, or even amputation.

If you have a hospital stay, you will also get a big fat $500K+ bill at the end. You may lose your home. You may lose your job. If you get septic shock (who knew that would be a prevailing secondary symptom?) you may have an encephalopathy that will result in requiring a caregiver for weeks, months, or forever. We have young patients who survived COVID-19,
but need to relearn how to roll over in bed. They have to relearn how to drive and may never fully regain function.

As healthcare providers, we know all of this, right? Yet I see healthcare providers in meetings sitting elbow-to-elbow without masks. I see healthcare providers wearing a mask below the nose or on the chin. I hear healthcare providers espouse opening up the state and the schools because “some will get sick, that’s how you get herd immunity.” Some of us are willing to sacrifice the health of children so that normalcy can be achieved. But “normal” will never be normal again.

I have a child (another disclaimer: he’s a grown man) who lives in Japan. Although a smaller country and bordered by water, their success in mastering quarantine and masking has resulted in fewer than 1000 deaths after only a month of lockdown. But Japan’s culture is different. When I visited way way back in 2011, many were wearing masks because they had a cold, or even a suspicion of a cold. The cooperation in the culture and the respect for others resulted in preventing contagion by managing their own personal environment. They wore masks to protect others.

As Americans, we absolutely have rights. You have the right to swing a sword in public. But your right to swing a sword ends when swinging a sword endangers the health and safety of others. Wear a mask when working in healthcare. Wear a mask when in public. A mask is not a sign of weakness and it’s not a political statement. It’s a sign of respect for others.

Jean Wendland Porter, PT, CCI, WCC, CKTP, CDP, TWD is the regional director of therapy operations at Diversified Health Partners in Ohio.